Thus says the Lord: Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior's bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.(P) The word of the Lord.
I will extol you, O my God and King, and I will bless your name forever and ever. Every day will I bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever. (R)
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works. (R)
Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord, and let your faithful ones bless you. Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might. (R)
The Lord is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works. The Lord lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. (R)
Brothers and sisters: You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Consequently, brothers and sisters, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.(P) The word of the Lord.
At that time Jesus exclaimed: "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
James Cash Penney, an American businessman and the founder of the J.C. Penney dry-goods stores had made some unwise investments prior to the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression which formed the largest financial crisis of the 20th century. He was one of those men blamed for the crisis but for which he felt that he was in no way responsible. These accusations caused enormous worry and anxiety to him so much so that he could not sleep, and developed an extremely painful ailment known as the shingles. He consulted a physician who warned him of the severity of the illness, and admitted him to the hospital. But his despair left him broken physically and mentally, and made him feel abandoned by his family and friends. His condition never improved. He got weaker day by day.
One night, he was prescribed a sedative that quickly wore off, and he awoke believing that he would die that night. Getting out of bed, he wrote farewell letters to his wife and son and fell asleep. He woke up the next morning, and was surprised that he was still alive. At the same time, he heard people singing "God Will Take Care of You" in the little chapel of the hospital, and he went in. He listened to the singing and message with a heavy heart, but then something happened. He later said, "I realized then that I alone was responsible for my troubles. I knew that God with His love was there to help me. Those twenty minutes spent in that chapel that morning were the most dramatic and glorious moments of my life. From that day onward, my life has been free of worry." It was all because he realized that God would take care of him.
Our Lord Jesus promises comfort and consolation to all the weak and the sinful. When we are in difficulties and pain, we can look to Jesus. He may not always take away the pain but we can expect him to restore hope, joy, peace and life to us. In today's gospel, we hear Jesus telling us just that. He says, "Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest", Matthew (11:28). It is a wonderful offer. But the question is, how can this offer of "rest" be received? And what kind of "rest" is Jesus talking about? If we are to understand Jesus correctly, we need to examine the verses before and after this.
Jesus had just finished sending his apostles to proclaim the gospel, and was talking to the crowds about John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, and denouncing the towns of Israel - Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. Many people in these towns were religious scholars but had not received the Gospel. So, Jesus compared these towns to two pagan cities - Tyre and Sidon - cursed by the prophets in the Old Testament time, and pronounced destruction to them and continued with his preaching.
In the text we read today, Jesus begins by praising God for selectively revealing the greatness of the gospel. He says, "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to little ones", Matthew (11:25). Here, Jesus is not saying that God chooses to reveal Himself to some and not to others or that the wise and intelligent people are excluded from the faith but rather the faith should not be seen as the privilege of the wise and the intelligent. So, he says that God has hidden certain things from the wise and learned, particularly referring to those who think that they know everything, and those who only use logic and reason but not God's teachings to understand the mystery of life, but in His gracious will, Jesus says that God reveals to little ones, like the apostles who were poor, ordinary, simple and humble fishermen and tax collectors and all who can turn to God in trust, who can become like children and open themselves to the truth.
Jesus then says that all things have been handed over to Him by His Father. In other words, God has appointed his Son Jesus, as King of the entire universe, and therefore, everything and everyone who lives in it, is under the authority of Jesus. Moreover, Jesus says that only He, the Son, knows God the Father, and only God knows him, the Son. In this unique relationship, Jesus claims that He is absolutely equal to God, the Father.
Having said that, Jesus makes the offer of rest to those who go to Him. However, he doesn't stop short of making a wonderful offer. In the following verses, He actually lays down very important demands for the person who wants to enjoy the rest that Jesus speaks of. No one can find that rest in Christ if he doesn't meet the requirements. All the requirements are to do with true discipleship or the true following of Jesus. A true disciple is one who "hears the word of God and obeys it", Luke (11:28).
The first requirement to enjoy the rest Jesus offers, is to go to Jesus. He said, "Come to Me". Let us note that here Jesus does not call people to anyone or anything but to Himself. It is an invitation to a personal and intimate relationship with Him. As Oswald Chambers, an early twentieth-century Scottish Baptist evangelist and teacher says, "Personal contact with Jesus alters everything". Although it is only to his true disciples that Jesus finally offers this rest, his invitation to go to him and find rest in him is for everyone. He calls "all who labour and are burdened", meaning all who are exhausted from trying to find what pleases God through their own efforts, all who are wearied from their vain search for peace and happiness through their own human ways, and who despair of achieving God's standard of righteousness with their own efforts.
Jesus simply calls everyone to "come" to Him first. He drives no one away, for He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life, John (14:6). He says to all who are "worn out" to "come out," as He did to the dead Lazarus, John (11:43); to all who are "wanting to see him" to "come down," as He did to Zacchaeus, Luke (19:5); to all who are "wondering about him" to "come and see", as He did to two of John's disciples, one of whom was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, John (1:39); and to all who are "weary and are burdened", to "come to me", as He did to the crowds, Matthew (11:28).
The second requirement to obtain the rest Jesus gives is to "bear the yoke of Jesus". He said, "Take my yoke upon you". A yoke is part of a plough, an agricultural instrument to loosen the soil for planting a field. It is made of two pieces of wood. One is attached to the necks of two work animals to pull the plough. The other piece of wood goes treading down the ground. The word "yoke" is used about fifty times in the Old Testament, but it is rarely used in its literal sense. Most of the time, the word "yoke" is used in a figurative sense to describe the condition of someone who is under the authority of another person or another nation. The prophets had warned Israel, time and again, that if they rejected God's yoke, they were going to be under the yoke of oppressors. And sadly enough, that's what happened to Israel. The Israelites had rebelled against the Lord, and were obstinate in their refusal to accept the prophets and, submit to God's will. Hence, they eventually came under the heavy and cruel yoke of the Babylonians and Assyrians.
The word "yoke" is also used in relation to sin. For instance, the prophet Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem spoke on behalf of Israel, "He bound my sins into a yoke and fastened them together, then set them upon my neck and caused my strength to fail. Yahweh gave me into the hands of those I cannot withstand", Lamentations (1:14). In other words, the people were crying out to God for relief from the punishment of their sins which they believed was laid upon them by the Lord Himself. And Jesus came and offered to take away the heavy burdens from their necks and remove the yoke of oppressors. So here, the people of Israel were at a crossroads in which they had to make a decision whether to choose the yoke of the oppressors and die in sin, or accept the yoke of Jesus, that is, the kingship and authority and commandments of Jesus and be saved. It was, therefore, an invitation from Jesus to everyone to reach out by faith and willingly take the "yoke" of Jesus and place it upon himself.
The third requirement to receive Jesus' gift of rest is to learn from Jesus. He said, "Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves". A disciple is someone who goes to the master without fear for help and instruction. So, Jesus calls all people to be his disciples and be taught by him, namely, all things pertaining to life and godliness, and the kingdom of God, 2 Peter (1:3). Meekness, humility and lowliness are eminently Jesus' personal character traits. And he has demonstrated them in his incarnation, in his obedience to His Father, in his conversation and interactions among human beings, and in his suffering and death, and he can be imitated herein, by all his followers, who can learn many excellent things from his example, and become more and more Christ-like.
But Jesus is more than being submissive, obedient, kind, compassionate and patient. So, when he says that he is meek and humble of heart, he gives a reason why people should embrace him. That is, Jesus is not harsh, over-bearing, and oppressive, like the Pharisees, but meek, mild and gentle in his governance, and His laws are reasonable and just and it would be easy to obey. Thus, Jesus calls on people to learn from him to be meek and humble, both in disposition and behaviour, and they will find rest for themselves. Here, Christ's gift of "rest" connotes complete rest from enemies and all kinds of worries and anything burdensome, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.
What is the message for us?
To receive His gift of rest Jesus himself suggests three ways:
a. He wants us to go not to the church or to a priest or to a denomination or to a belief or to a doctrine or to anything or anyone but Jesus Himself.
b. He wants us to take his yoke, that is, his teaching and his rule of life which are easy and light, and submit ourselves to his authority.
c. He wants us to learn from him for he is the only one who can teach us all things and what God is like, as to our comfort and obedience.
Let us, therefore, go to Jesus daily, for deliverance from wrath and guilt, from sin and Satan, and rest from all our cares, fears, doubts, sorrows and tests and, take comfort in him.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!